The Quebec Ministers of Transport and Culture and Communications have committed in writing to placing more and better safety-related pictograms on highways, Côte St. Luc councillor Ruth Kovac told The Suburban Monday.
The commitment by ministers Laurent Lessard and Luc Fortin respectively was the province’s response to a nearly 7,000-name National Assembly petition, created by Hampstead lawyer Harold Staviss and Kovac and sponsored by D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum, calling on Quebec to install bilingual traffic safety signs, as allowed by the province’s language law.
The news of the commitment came during a meeting Kovac had Friday with Birnbaum.
“It took 40 years to get the ministries to acknowledge that our road signs could be better,” Kovac said. “They said, ‘let’s do the best pictograms we can,’ which I have no issue with. First and foremost, it’s always about road safety.
“So if they’re going to make an effort to put up more and better pictograms, so be it. The [ministries] have acknowledged through David that if they don’t have existing pictograms, they will go to a senior engineer to work to make better pictograms, or create one.”
She added that pictograms could be attempted on electronic billboards that warn of safety issues happening at certain times.
Kovac said Quebec’s commitment fell short of allowing English on traffic safety signs if no suitable pictogram exists.
“We just didn’t cross the finish line,” she said. “But for 40 years we’ve been trying, and in the last six months and with David’s presentation, 7,000 people managed to get an affirmation that our road signs can be better. It’s a very positive step in a good direction. Does it fall a little short? Yes. But I know things work incrementally. I see, in a short period of time, reasonableness has prevailed, but they just didn’t put in writing they would go that next step [of adding English to the road signs].... That’s still a question mark. I think we’re 99 percent there.”
Kovac thinks Quebec did not go the extra step of committing to add English if no pictograms exist, to avoid reopening the language debate, even though the law allows English on those signs.
The councillor added that she and Staviss will be taking photographs of signs they have complained about over time, and will point out whether or not they have been changed.
“Now we’ll be sign inspectors for free!” she joked. “I also have visitors coming from the U.S. in a couple of weeks, and I will ask them to take pictures or note any signs that they really don’t understand.
‘Did we make progress? Am I pleased? Yes.”
Birnbaum commended Staviss and Kovac for their efforts, the community for its response on the petition as well as The Suburban for focusing on the issue.
“Their petition hasn’t been a dead letter,” the MNA said. “They got some meaningful progress. The directive obviously acknowledges that Harold and Ruth got it right — the law is clear on what’s possible. And the directive that has been given notes that there are some situations where pictograms can be used and are not being used right now, and the directive suggests that be changed.”
Birnbaum also confirmed that the directive also says that when a pictogram doesn’t exist at the moment, regional authorities are asked to communicate with the operations department of the Transport ministry “to try and develop one.
“It’s a start,” the MNA said.